Tag Archives: California Public Records Act

El Rio Community School — A Gentrification-Enabling Charter In Highland Park — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act

Yes, this post is about another CPRA petition. If you don’t want to read through the reams of nonsense to get to the goods, here is a direct link to that petition!

Charter schools in Los Angeles1 serve a variety of social functions. There are white savior charter schools which operate in majority black/brown neighborhoods and seem to mostly consist of real estate and tax scams thinly overlain with implausible social justice rhetoric and toxic moral complacency. The Accelerated Schools are a paradigmatic example of this variety. There are zillionaire-serving schools, which play essentially the same role in 21st Century Los Angeles as segregation academies did in their day. Pali High and Granada Hills Charter High are good examples of this sort.

And then there are gentrification-enabling charters.2 Once the gentrification of a neighborhood has moved past the edgy urban pioneer stage and the pre-existing residents have been pacified to a sufficient extent, young families start to move in. Or the original edgies get smoothed down a little and start having kids. All these new arrivals need schools to send their kids to, and the neighborhood public schools generally won’t do for all the obvious reasons. The same reasons that the so-called legacy bars and restaurants won’t do.

The gentrification process requires new establishments with craft cocktails and $37 nitro cold brew lynx poop coffee drinks to satisfy the settlers, and the equivalent replacements for neighborhood public schools. Charters are an ideal (and recognized) way to fill this need, given that they can be relatively easily started from scratch and the kids of the soon-to-be-displaced so-called legacy residents relatively easily excluded. And they can be spiffed up with all kinds of shiny hipster-appealing educational baubles, like e.g. Waldorf or Montessori.3

And of course Highland Park has been and is one of the most gentrificationally contested neighborhoods in Los Angeles. And the gentrification bars are there in force. And the coffee. And now, therefore, it is time for the gentrification charters to move in. Which brings us to the subject of today’s post, that is El Rio Community School, a Waldorf charter establishment approved by LAUSD last year and set to open in Highland Park in the Fall of 2020.

This school is in the intersection of three of my favorite subjects to investigate via the California Public Records Act,4 so when I first learned about it I immediately sent the supreme commander, Dr. Katie Chau, a request for the usual array of records. And ten days later Dr. Chau responded with a cryptic note that read: “Thank you for your email. El Rio Community School is authorized by LAUSD to operate a charter school in 2020, but the school hasn’t even opened yet. We don’t have any public records.”
Continue reading El Rio Community School — A Gentrification-Enabling Charter In Highland Park — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act

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PUC Charter Schools — Former Home Of Convicted Felon And Disgraced Former School Board Member Ref Rodriguez — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — They Refused To Respond At All And Now They Will Have To Pay — And Comply!

In January 2019 I started investigating Los Angeles charter schools using the California Public Records Act and immediately ran into the typical block-headed obstructionism so beloved of CPRA-subject public agencies. I got some pretty interesting material early on, when I was still focusing on how charters reacted to the UTLA strike. As I began to understand the issues better I started looking into co-locations in general and learned, e.g., a lot of important stuff about GANAS academy.

This material ultimately helped to some extent supporters of their co-location target, Catskill Elementary School, fight off their co-location attempt, which really started to show me the utility of the CPRA not just to scholars and journalists, but to anti-charter activists as well. But things really took off in June 2019 when I received a massive release of emails from Green Dot Charter Schools containing explosive correspondence with the California Charter Schools Association.

These documents revealed, among many, many other things, that LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner allowed CCSA lobbyists to vet and edit an advance copy of his first major policy speech. That board member Nick Melvoin asked CCSA lobbyists to write a board resolution for him that would facilitate charters expanding control over LAUSD facilities. That Melvoin shared confidential legal information with CCSA while they were actively suing the District.

That former Board member and now convicted felon Ref Rodriguez also allowed CCSA lobbyists to edit and vet at least one Board resolution. That CCSA intended to put all California students in charter schools by 2030. Revelations from this material were widely covered in the press, including the Los Angeles Times, and Capital and Main, and Diane Ravitch’s blog, and elsewhere. The ramifications of these revelations are still unfolding even now, more than six months later.
Continue reading PUC Charter Schools — Former Home Of Convicted Felon And Disgraced Former School Board Member Ref Rodriguez — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — They Refused To Respond At All And Now They Will Have To Pay — And Comply!

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Los Angeles City Council District Seven — Repped By Councilmember Monica Rodriguez — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — Over Emails Concerning LAPD And Vigilante Anti-Homeless Facebook Groups In The San Fernando Valley — CD7 Ignored Requests For Months On End — Which Is Against The Damn Law!

Last summer it was revealed that LAPD officers participated in various secretive vigilante anti-homeless Facebook groups. Stories ran in the press and LAPD Chief Michel Moore banned his officers from participating. At the time I was investigating the story through Public Records Act requests to various City departments, including all San Fernando Valley Council Districts.

Most of them complied, albeit reluctantly and with the usual idiotic foot-dragging obstructionism, but Council District 7, repped by Monica Rodriguez, actually just completely stopped communicating with me after some point. This is a typical tactic in the City of Los Angeles,1 and the only recourse provided by the law is to file a lawsuit seeking to compel compliance. So on Friday, January 17, 2020, assisted by fabulous and heroic attorneys Ian Stringham and Tasha Hill, that’s just what I did! Here’s a copy of the petition, and read on for transcribed excerpts!
Continue reading Los Angeles City Council District Seven — Repped By Councilmember Monica Rodriguez — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — Over Emails Concerning LAPD And Vigilante Anti-Homeless Facebook Groups In The San Fernando Valley — CD7 Ignored Requests For Months On End — Which Is Against The Damn Law!

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North Figueroa Association — AKA Highland Park BID — And Lincoln Heights BID — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — After I Exposed Their Mural Erasures — And Social Media Stalking — And Attacks On Street Vendors — In 2018 They Lawyered Up — And Stopped Complying With The Law — Apparently Litigation Is The Only Way To Get These Outlaws To Comply With Their Damn Obligations

It’s been a while since I’ve written about our old friends at the Highland Park BID but that’s certainly not because I lost interest in them! You’ll recall that in early 2018 they released a really rich set of emails in response to some requests made under the California Public Records Act. These records revealed, among other things, the BID’s complicity in the ongoing hurricane-force gentrification of Highland Park, using tactics like mural erasure and harassment of street vendors. The emails also showed the BID’s creepy Facebook stalking of local antigentrification activists, coordinated with weirdo CD1 staffer Bill Cody.

The Highland Park BID’s executive director, Misty Iwatsu, is also the ED of the Lincoln Heights BID.1 Lincoln Heights isn’t as under the gentrification gun as Highland Park, but it’s going to be very soon. So in May 2018 I sent some CPRA requests to the LHBID, seeking to understand their role in changing the neighborhood and also to understand their BID renewal process, which was just beginning. But by the middle of that month Iwatsu’s two BIDs had evidently had their damn fill of transparency.2 They hired ritzy Manhattan Beach lawyer Mark Abramson, who on their behalf immediately stopped complying with the CPRA.

And as usual I spent some time trying to convince the guy to straighten up and follow the law, but he simply would not do it. The previously smooth flow of records ceased. Abramson announced vague far-in-the-future deadlines for production and then blew through them, sent corrupted files and denied they were corrupted, and all the usual tactics that obstructionist agencies rely on. At some point it became clear that no one at either of these BIDs was planning to comply with the law, so on Monday, January 13, 2020, I filed a petition in L.A. County Superior Court asking the judge to compel them.

The public interest in accessing this material is huge even apart from the general public interest in having public agencies comply with the Public Records Act. The BID’s role in mural erasure was covered in L.A. Magazine and The Boulevard Sentinel and local activists Restorative Justice for the Arts have organized in opposition. The Lincoln Heights BID is actually involved somehow in the planned gentrification of that neighborhood, which has also been covered in the press. And in the 18 months since the BIDs stopped complying we’ve been kept in the dark about whatever else these publicly funded entities are getting up to. This cannot be allowed to continue! Read on for selections from the petition!
Continue reading North Figueroa Association — AKA Highland Park BID — And Lincoln Heights BID — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — After I Exposed Their Mural Erasures — And Social Media Stalking — And Attacks On Street Vendors — In 2018 They Lawyered Up — And Stopped Complying With The Law — Apparently Litigation Is The Only Way To Get These Outlaws To Comply With Their Damn Obligations

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In 2018 and 2019 The Los Angeles City Attorney Sent Out 479 Demand Letters In Nuisance Abatement Cases — And Filed 30 Cases In Court — According To Deputy City Attorney Bethelwel Wilson An LAPD Gang Officer’s Referral Is Sufficient To Open A Case File — Gang Officers Of Course Were Recently Revealed To Engage In Widespread Lying — And None Of The Demands And Almost None Of The Filed Complaints Get Litigated — So Almost None Of The City’s Allegations Ever Get Tested Adversarially — The City Is Already Reviewing Criminal Cases That The Lying Officers Were Involved In — But Who Will Review These Civil Nuisance Cases?

The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Citywide Nuisance Abatement Program ostensibly attacks gang crime by filing civil lawsuits against property owners whose properties are allegedly involved in ongoing criminal activity. And even though there are obviously people committing all kinds of crimes, dealing drugs, shooting guns, hanging out listening to music,1 in houses and apartments all over the City, the vast majority of these suits are brought in South Los Angeles, a significant fraction in East and Northeast LA, and almost none in other areas.

These disparities support the widely held view that nuisance abatement suits are used as an aggressive gentrification tool. The neighborhoods targeted are gentrifying neighborhoods. The settlement conditions, and by far most of these cases settle, support gentrification and displacement by, among other things, forcing property owners to sell or to evict putatively undesirable tenants or to install surveillance equipment or otherwise function as LAPD informants. Most of the cases are brought against owners of single family homes or small multifamily or commercial properties, maybe because they’re less likely to have the resources to defend themselves.2

I’ve had some trouble learning how the City Attorney picks its targets, but recently, Deputy City Attorney Bethelwel Wilson, in an important series of emails, revealed that for the most part they’re chosen as a result of referrals from residents or law enforcement.3 According to Wilson, irrespective of the source of the referral, an LAPD “gang officer’s communication would be sufficient for the DCA4 to open a case on the property.” And the information supporting the case also comes from LAPD, according to Wilson: “The criminal activity at the property would have to be chronic and well-documented by LAPD before a DCA would even consider filling nuisance abatement action.”

And it turns out that for the City, filing a case essentially amounts to winning it. I recently obtained almost a hundred of these nuisance petitions, filed since 2015, from the CA via the California Public Records Act.5 and for the most part the targets don’t fight back. I checked all 67 of the cases opened between 2017 and 2019 and no more than ten involved any significant defense before settling essentially on the City’s terms.6 This means that the allegations in the petitions almost never get tested adversarially.

There’s no cross-examination, no documentation, and, surprisingly, not even testimony under penalty of perjury. In California Civil Procedure7 a petition is called verified when the complainant asserts belief in the truth of the allegations under penalty of perjury. For whatever reason nuisance abatement petitions are unverified, so no one even gets in trouble if parts of the cases turn out to be made up.8
Continue reading In 2018 and 2019 The Los Angeles City Attorney Sent Out 479 Demand Letters In Nuisance Abatement Cases — And Filed 30 Cases In Court — According To Deputy City Attorney Bethelwel Wilson An LAPD Gang Officer’s Referral Is Sufficient To Open A Case File — Gang Officers Of Course Were Recently Revealed To Engage In Widespread Lying — And None Of The Demands And Almost None Of The Filed Complaints Get Litigated — So Almost None Of The City’s Allegations Ever Get Tested Adversarially — The City Is Already Reviewing Criminal Cases That The Lying Officers Were Involved In — But Who Will Review These Civil Nuisance Cases?

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The AIDS Healthcare Foundation Filed A Public Records Suit Against The City Of Los Angeles In September 2019 – And Even Though The City Only Very Rarely Contests These CPRA Petitions They Are Contesting This One – Not Sure Why Though Given That AHF Asked For Fifteen Categories Of Records And The City’s Sole Defense Is Apparently That The California Supreme Court Said That Records In One Of Those Categories Are Exempt Under Certain Circumstances – Which Don’t Even Obviously Apply Here

This is just a short post to update you on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation‘s pending California Public Records Act petition against the City of Los Angeles. The petition was filed in September, and you can read about it some detail here. The short version is that the City put out a request for proposals for some housing stuff. AHF’s response was rejected. Subsequently AHF submitted a CPRA request asking for fifteen distinct categories of records related to the RFP process.1

One part of the request was for the other responses to the RFP. The others had to do with communications regarding the RFP, names, resumes, and conflicts of interests of the people who scored the responses, and so on. And the City denied the request with a characteristically terse non-sequitur, stating that: “[it] is our policy not to disclose materials related to competing bids while the contracting process is still ongoing.”

The City of Los Angeles, you may recall, fights very, very few CPRA petitions filed against it. Between 2016 and early 2019 they settled nine out of at least ten cases.2 I myself have filed eight cases against the City since last year and they’ve settled three of them, agreed to settle three others, and two are just beginning. But they’re not settling this one, or at least they’re buying some time before they do settle.3

And therefore on Monday, January 6, 2020, the City filed this answer to the petition. Answers in civil litigation can be notoriously devoid of content, and this one’s pretty much in line with that trend, what with the “to the extent that anything the petitioner said makes any sense respondent the City of Los Angeles denies it” and other such circumlocutions. But Bethelwel Wilson, the Deputy City Attorney who’s staffing the case, did include a couple fragments of substantial argument. In the first place, quoth Wilson:
Continue reading The AIDS Healthcare Foundation Filed A Public Records Suit Against The City Of Los Angeles In September 2019 – And Even Though The City Only Very Rarely Contests These CPRA Petitions They Are Contesting This One – Not Sure Why Though Given That AHF Asked For Fifteen Categories Of Records And The City’s Sole Defense Is Apparently That The California Supreme Court Said That Records In One Of Those Categories Are Exempt Under Certain Circumstances – Which Don’t Even Obviously Apply Here

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Jordan Cunningham – Republican Member Of The California State Assembly From San Luis Obispo – Introduces Monumental Police Misconduct Transparency Bill – AB1599 Would Require Release Of Police Personnel Files Of Officers Accused Of Sexual Assault On Member Of Public When The Officer Resigns Before The Investigation Is Concluded

The legislature is back in session as of yesterday, and all the bills still kicking around from last year must be dealt with soonest. And among these is a gut and amend1 version of AB1599, introduced yesterday by San Luis Obispo Republican Jordan Cunningham. This is a supplement to last year’s blockbuster SB1421, which required the release of a whole range of records relating to police misconduct.

That law has been transformative, even in the face of massive police resistance to its implementation, but it only applies to records of completed investigations, which leaves open the possibility that officers could resign during an investigation and thereby keep records from being released.

Cunningham’s bill closes off that possibility in the specific case of officers accused of sexual assault involving members of the public by making an officer’s personnel records relating to such complaints public in the event that the accused officer resigns prior to the investigation being complete.

It’s possibly interesting that such a radical police misconduct transparency bill is being introduced by a Republican, I guess, although partisan politics in California is full of such superficial contradictions. Cunningham is both a former ADA and has a reputation for promoting law enforcement accountability, two qualities which are often but ought not to be in tension. His reasoning, perfectly sensible and yet apparently very rare among prosecutors, is summed up in this story from last year about his support for another bill in this genre:

“I can tell you as a deputy (district attorney), the last thing you want to do is carry a case forward to a jury not knowing whether you’re going to put a police officer on the stand that has impeachment material in their file that you haven’t gotten access to,” Cunningham said on the floor May 22. “I know a lot of my colleagues on our side of the aisle are nervous about this bill, but I don’t think you should be.”

This bill seems like a good idea, and stay tuned for developments! Meanwhile, here’s a link to the legislative file again, and read on for the legislative analyst’s summary.
Continue reading Jordan Cunningham – Republican Member Of The California State Assembly From San Luis Obispo – Introduces Monumental Police Misconduct Transparency Bill – AB1599 Would Require Release Of Police Personnel Files Of Officers Accused Of Sexual Assault On Member Of Public When The Officer Resigns Before The Investigation Is Concluded

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Emails Between Excelencia Charter Academy Founder Ruben Alonzo And Various Lawyers At Powerhouse Privatizing Law Firm Young Minney Corr – Discussing How To Respond To My Request For Public Records – Reveal Strategies Of Obstruction And Delay – And Hint At A Coordinated Campaign Of Intelligence-Gathering And Investigation Of Me – Including Idiotic Interpretations Of My Motives And My Place Of Employment – Pretty Creepy Stuff On Which To Be Spending Public Money Meant For The Education Of Children – But Not Especially Surprising

In October 2018 I sent a California Public Records Act request for a bunch of emails to Ruben Alonzo, self-proclaimed founder of Excelencia Charter Academy, a creepy co-locating conspiracy currently occupying the Boyle Heights campus of Sunrise Elementary School. And about six weeks later, at the end of November, Alonzo handed over a suprisingly complete set of responsive records. And what important material it turned out to be.

From it we learned about a demand letter that the United Teachers of Los Angeles sent to Excelencia in June 2018 alleging violations of the Brown Act. And about how insidious privateer brigade the California Charter School Association provides free lawyers to charters to help them co-locate on the campuses of actual public schools. And about how charter school operators use all kinds of shenanaganistic financial maneuvers to skim money from the public funds they receive and funnel it into the coffers of their zillionaire sponsors. And about how Ruben Alonzo is a whiny crybaby stalker who hates democracy and freedom.

And not only was all that stuff revealed but Alonzo was kind enough to produce a set of emails between him and a couple of lawyers, Sarah Kollman and Kimberly Rodriguez, from metaphorically mobbed-up charter school law conspiracy Young Minney & Corr advising him on how to respond to my request and giving him apparently illegal suggestions for how to delay my access to the records. I’m exceedingly familiar with the end result of the anti-CPRA machinations of public agencies, but it’s rare, and very interesting, not to mention useful in deciding how to respond and proceed against them, to get a glimpse of the little folks behind the curtain who create the responses sent out over the signatures of their feckless clients.

The emails also include a series of weirdly puerile and self-serving theories on my thoughts about charter schools and my motives for requesting records and related matters, thereby revealing that evidently I myself am an object of investigation and intelligence-sharing1 amongst the local charterites. For instance, in one email to Alonzo, Sarah Kollman says about me that “This guy is a “community organizer” and has made it his mission to harass charter schools across LA.”2 At one point, Ruben Alonzo identifies me in an email to his tech department as “the same blogger who was attacking Sakshi and Ganas.” Which of course is true, see the story here at the tag archive, and isn’t validation nice!

As I said, the story begins with my October 13, 2018 request for access to some of ECA’s emails. It’s really important to provide as specific a description of what one wants as is practicable,3 and here I asked for 2018 and 2019 emails that:
Continue reading Emails Between Excelencia Charter Academy Founder Ruben Alonzo And Various Lawyers At Powerhouse Privatizing Law Firm Young Minney Corr – Discussing How To Respond To My Request For Public Records – Reveal Strategies Of Obstruction And Delay – And Hint At A Coordinated Campaign Of Intelligence-Gathering And Investigation Of Me – Including Idiotic Interpretations Of My Motives And My Place Of Employment – Pretty Creepy Stuff On Which To Be Spending Public Money Meant For The Education Of Children – But Not Especially Surprising

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When Protesters Shut Down Extera Charter Schools’ March 2019 Board Meeting They Criticized Extera For Taking Money From Privatizing Walton/Broad Front Group Great Public Schools Now – And Doctor Jim Kennedy Tacitly Accepted The Validity Of Their Criticism By Mumbling Non-Denials About How Extera Had Not Yet Accepted Any GPSN Money – But Emails Obtained Via The CPRA And Published Here Show That Even While Kennedy Was Mumbling His Mumbles – Even Then – Extera Was Actively Seeking GPSN’s Money – With The Active Support Of CCSA – To Support Their Expansion Into The Montebello Unified School District – In Other Words Precisely The Kind Of Colonial Charterism Opposed By The Protesters – Showing The Utter Dishonesty Of Kennedy’s Claims

So you probably heard about how activists from Centro CSO and the United Teachers of Los Angeles and Eastside Padres Unidos Contra la Privatizacion protested vigorously and shut down the March 19, 2019 meeting of the Extera Charter Conspiracy Board of Directors to express their opposition to Extera’s colonial co-location at Eastman Avenue Elementary School in Boyle Heights.

And one of the key exchanges was between a protester, whose name I don’t know, and self-proclaimed doctor and supreme Extera commander Jim Kennedy, and you can watch it here.1 The backstory is that Corri Ravare had been talking previously about how Extera was getting some money from famous Walton/Broad privatizing front organization Great Public Schools Now, which, as the protester notes, is extraordinarily revealing with respect to which team Extera plays for.2

The protester called Dr. Jim Kennedy out on this and he denied that they had taken any money from GPSN: “At this point we have not …” But the truth, as the protester said, is that Corri Ravare had already “said we pretty much have the money.” And the problem with this? Well, clearly, it is that “Great Public Schools Now have declared themselves an enemy of public education. Those are the people we have to work against because they are selling out our public schools to Eli Broad and the Walton Foundation.”

She’s absolutely right about that, of course, and Doctor Jim Kennedy seems to understand that, or at least to realize that Extera’s association with GPSN doesn’t look so good. No doubt this is why he went on to tell her straight out that “[Extera has] not yet accepted that money.” But, as you may already have guessed, Doctor JK is being extraordinarily deceptive here with his mumbled half-denials. In fact Extera had been actively pursuing money from GPSN since December 2018, four months before the date of this meeting.
Continue reading When Protesters Shut Down Extera Charter Schools’ March 2019 Board Meeting They Criticized Extera For Taking Money From Privatizing Walton/Broad Front Group Great Public Schools Now – And Doctor Jim Kennedy Tacitly Accepted The Validity Of Their Criticism By Mumbling Non-Denials About How Extera Had Not Yet Accepted Any GPSN Money – But Emails Obtained Via The CPRA And Published Here Show That Even While Kennedy Was Mumbling His Mumbles – Even Then – Extera Was Actively Seeking GPSN’s Money – With The Active Support Of CCSA – To Support Their Expansion Into The Montebello Unified School District – In Other Words Precisely The Kind Of Colonial Charterism Opposed By The Protesters – Showing The Utter Dishonesty Of Kennedy’s Claims

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City Of Los Angeles Sued Yet Again To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act – This Time Over Emails Concerning Various Matters Of Public Concern – Garcetti/Repenning/Morrison Conspiracy Against Selma Park – Wesson Corruption – Huizar Corruption – Less Than Two Weeks After Filing They Already Conceded Fault And Are Producing Documents – This Is No Way To Run A Damn City

I’m a little late in writing this up, but on December 9, with the able assistance of Abenicio Cisneros and Joseph Wangler I filed yet another petition under the California Public Records Act seeking to compel the City to follow the damn law and hand over a bunch of records I had asked for ever so long ago. And as they often will do, they actually started handing them over immediately, although I haven’t gotten the most interesting ones yet.

The petition covers three major requests,1 unrelated other than by the fact that they were all made to the City’s Information Technology Agency. These are the folks to file CPRA requests for emails with if you want MBOX format, which ultimately is the best way to get emails.2 ITA is also the sole source for emails in the accounts of former City employees. Here’s a link to the very interesting petition, worth reading for many reasons and also containing every last detail of the requests at issue, described more briefly below.

First is a request I first made in 20163 for emails having to do with Eric Garcetti when he was repping CD13, his staffers Heather Repenning and Helen Leung, and their conspiracy with Kerry Morrison, then-commander of the Hollywood Entertainment District BID, to illegally exclude homeless people from Selma Park in Hollywood.
Continue reading City Of Los Angeles Sued Yet Again To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act – This Time Over Emails Concerning Various Matters Of Public Concern – Garcetti/Repenning/Morrison Conspiracy Against Selma Park – Wesson Corruption – Huizar Corruption – Less Than Two Weeks After Filing They Already Conceded Fault And Are Producing Documents – This Is No Way To Run A Damn City

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